United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton
DECISION AND ENTRY
L. Ovington United States Magistrate Judge.
Samantha Walter brings this case challenging the Social
Security Administration's denial of her application for
Disability Insurance Benefits. She applied for benefits on
August 4, 2012, asserting that she could no longer work a
substantial paid job due to anxiety, depression, panic
attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obesity.
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Christopher L. Dillon
concluded that she was not eligible for benefits because she
is not under a “disability” as defined in the
Social Security Act.
case is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Statement of
Errors (Doc. #7), the Commissioner's Memorandum in
Opposition (Doc. #9), Plaintiff's Reply (Doc. #10), and
the administrative record (Doc. #6).
seeks a remand of this case for payment of benefits or, at a
minimum, for further proceedings. The Commissioner asks the
Court to affirm ALJ Dillon's non-disability decision.
asserts that she has been under a “disability”
since July 25, 2012. She was twenty-three years old at that
time and was therefore considered a “younger
person” under Social Security Regulations. See
20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c). She has a high school
education. See Id. § 404.1564(b)(4).
testified at the hearing before ALJ Dillon that when she has
a panic attack, she gets pain in the left side of her chest
and down the left side of her arm; her mouth goes numb
(sometimes); she breathes heavily; her pulse rate increases;
she cries; and she feels like she needs to get away from
everyone. (Doc. #6, PageID #70). When she has a
panic attack at home, she goes into her bedroom. Id.
If it gets too bad, she goes to the hospital. Id. at
71. If she is playing outside with her child and sees a
person, she goes inside. Id. When asked why, she
explained, “I'm just scared. Scared to be around
those people. Scared that they may know me, know my history,
and my past, or if it's a stranger I just get scared that
they may notice something about me and confront me, or just
in general the fear of being around any type of person other
than those of close relation.” Id. at 71-72.
If she is at someone else's house, she goes into the
bathroom, outside, or away from people. Id. at 71.
She does not want anyone to see her have a panic attack.
Id. “Sometimes when I'm alone and I have a
panic attack, I'm afraid of being around people, but
I'm also afraid of being alone, and having a panic
attack, and not being able to get anywhere, and feeling like
I'm going to die.” Id. at 70.
panic attacks sometimes have a specific trigger. Id.
at 66. For example, when she has a list of chores, she will
“[m]ost always” have an attack. Id. at
72. A sink full of dishes, a load of laundry in the dryer, a
really fussy baby, or a cluttered/dusty home may also cause
one. Id. But, a majority of the time, there is no
trigger. Id. at 66. Even if she is watching TV or is
by herself, she has panic attacks. Id. They usually
last one to two hours and happen five to six times in a week.
mother, who lives five minutes away, and her mother-in-law,
who also lives very close, help Plaintiff with her child.
Id. at 65. Because her panic attacks come on very
quickly, “[a]s soon as I feel any tightness in my
chest, or the symptoms I know that are going to start causing
me to have a panic attack, I will call [my mom] right away
before it goes into a full-blown panic attack.”
Id. at 67. For example, when her child starts
crying, her anxiety starts, and she calls one of them to help
her with him until she can calm down. Id. at 65.
is also agoraphobic. Id. at 67. It “came along
with the panic.” Id. She is still able to go
where there are people, but she cannot do it by herself-she
always takes someone with her. Id. But even when she
has people with her, she still has panic attacks.
Id. at 74. If she is in a store with someone and she
starts feeling one, she will give the list to the other
person and go to the car to be by herself. Id. At
least once or twice per week, she will go to a store with
someone but will not be able to make it into the front door.
is able to drive but is very scared to. Id. at 66.
The fear started when she started having panic attacks.
Id. She also has many other fears including:
drinking caffeine; being in her house with the doors
unlocked; going outside; running into someone she knows;
being around people when she is having a panic attack; and
worrying that the other person will notice that she is
anxious or panicky. Id. at 69.
explained that she would not be able to work in a job where
she did not have to deal with the public and sat in a cubical
all day because “My focus is very off. I require a lot
of medication throughout the entire day. So, I would have to
constantly have medication with me. If there was a
complication, say if I was in a cubical, a computer, and
there was a small complication, a very small problem could
trigger me very, very quick.” Id. at 69-70.
Irfan Dahar, M.D.
treating psychiatrist, Dr. Dahar, first saw Plaintiff on
March 11, 2013, and sees her approximately once per month.
Id. at 406. On July 1, 2013, he completed a mental
impairment questionnaire. Id. at 406-09. Dr. Dahar
diagnosed agoraphobia with panic disorder and generalized
anxiety disorder and assigned a current global assessment of
functioning score of 40. Id. at 406. He identified
several of her signs and symptoms including: poor memory,
sleep disturbance, personality change, mood disturbances,
emotional lability, recurrent panic attacks, anhedonia or
pervasive loss of interests, feelings of guilt/worthlessness,
difficulty thinking or concentrating, social withdrawal or
isolation, decreased energy, intrusive recollections of a
traumatic experience, persistent irrational fears,
generalized persistent anxiety, and hostility/irritability.
Dahar opined that Plaintiff has “severe to debilitating
anxiety [with] panic attacks, can no longer drive or go into
public places alone. Panics even when others are driving.
Depression is moderate [and] marked by loss of interests,
poor functioning at home, [and] low self esteem.”
Id. at 407. Additionally, she has extreme
difficulties in maintaining social functioning. Id.
at 408. She is also extremely limited in her ability to
sustain an ordinary routing without special supervision; work
in coordination with or in proximity to other without being
distracted by them; complete a normal workday or workweek
without interruption from psychologically based symptoms and
to perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable
number and length of rest periods; interact appropriately
with the general public; and travel in unfamiliar places or
use public transportation. Id. at 408-09. She has
marked restrictions of activities of daily living.
Id. at 408.
Dr. Dahar noted that her “condition is expected to be a
long-standing problem [and] progress is slow.”
Id. at 407. Her prognosis is “guarded.”
Id. Dr. Dahar opined Plaintiff would be absent from
work more than three times per month due to her impairments
and treatment. Id. at 408.
Beth Vehre, M.D.
Vehre, Plaintiff's treating primary-care physician,
completed interrogatories on October 23, 2013. Id.
at 690-95. Dr. Vehre last saw Plaintiff on October 21, 2013,
and Plaintiff has been their patient since August 22,
2003. Id. at 690. Dr. Vehre opined that
Plaintiff's panic disorder is “complex [and]
difficult to control despite counselling, meds, [and]
psychiatric management.” Id. at 691. Dr. Vehre
stopped treating Plaintiff's panic disorder in February
2013 when she began treatment for her mental impairments with
Dr. Dahar. Id.
Vehre opined Plaintiff could not be prompt and regular in
attendance because she would have frequent absences due to
her panic disorder. Id. at 691. Additionally, she
could not respond appropriately to supervision, co-workers,
and customary work pressures. Id. at 692. She has
difficulty tolerating daily life stresses. Id. She
could sustain attention and concentration on her work but
only when she is not having a panic episode. Id. She
can relate predictably in social situations, “but not
in [a] good way, may be predicted [to] have panic
episode.” Id. Plaintiff is not able to
complete a normal workday or workweek without interruption
from psychologically and/or physically based symptoms and
perform at a consistent pace without unreasonable numbers and
lengths of rest periods. Id. at 695. Dr. Vehre
explained that Plaintiff has “at least daily panic
episodes [and] constant anxiety.” Id.
Timothy Smith, LPCC
Smith, Plaintiff's treating counselor since September
2009, completed three mental impairment questionnaires. He
indicated that he sees her weekly, and she is very compliant
with treatment. Id. at 375, 378. He opined,
“With medication management [and] counseling[, ]
symptoms have continued to persist. … With all the
work Samantha is doing[, ] she continues to be severely
impacted by anxiety [and] panic.” Id. at 403.
Smith noted Plaintiff has recurrent panic attacks, social
withdrawal/isolation, and generalized persistent anxiety.
Id. at 402. He indicated Plaintiff's signs and
symptoms of anxiety include heart palpitations, difficulty
breathing, nervous stomach, sweating, paralyzing fear, and
impending doom. Id. at 374. She is, at times,
“easily distracted” by anxiety and its symptoms.
Id. at 375.
ability to adapt to situations is poor. Id.
Additionally, she has a poor stress tolerance and needs
frequent breaks to manage stress/anxiety. Id. at
377. On average, Plaintiff's impairments and treatment
would cause her to be absent from work more than three times
per month. Id. at 404. She has marked deficiencies
of concentration, persistence, or pace resulting in failure
to complete tasks in a timely manner; moderate difficulties
in maintaining social functioning, and slight restrictions of
activities of daily living. Id.
Alan R. Boerger, Ph.D.
Boerger evaluated Plaintiff on December 18, 2012.
Id. at 293-98. He diagnosed panic disorder with
agoraphobia and depressive disorder, not otherwise specified,
and assigned a global assessment of functioning score of
sixty. Id. at 297. He opined, “Ms. Walter
appears to have chronic problems with anxiety but more recent
onset of a panic disorder. She does have a history of
traumatic experiences early in life in the form of witnessing
a rape and being a victim of rape. There also appear to be
indications of chronic mild depression.” Id.
Additionally, “Because of the longstanding nature of
her emotional difficulties, emotional symptoms are likely to
be present for the indefinite future.” Id.
Boerger did not find any indications of a memory impairment.
Id. at 298. He noted that she reported “being
distracted at times by her own thoughts and worry[, ]”
but she only made three errors in performing serial sevens.
Id. She also reported “some guardedness and
slowness to trust others.” Id. However, she
related in an appropriate manner with Dr. Boerger, and he did
not find any other indications of difficulty relating to
others. Id. He concluded, “Ms. Walter's
anxiety and depression may limit her ability to tolerate work
pressures in the work setting.” Id.